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  • The person who conveys, 'I am nothing. Make me something,' may all his life have people trying to answer his hidden plea, but their answer will be in terms of, 'I am trying to make you something because you are nothing,' and, thus, the insult will be embedded in the response. It will be heard just as clearly as the attempt to help. And it will be hated.

  • ... co-dependence...taking someone else's temperature to see how you feel ...

  • ... those who make some other person their job ... are dangerous.

  • ... people who are always thinking of the feelings of others can be very destructive because they are hiding so much from themselves.

  • Your whole being is involved in taking care of someone else, worrying about what they think of you, how they treat you, how you can make them treat you better. Right now everyone in the world seems to think that they are codependent and that they come from dysfunctional families. They call it codependency. I call it the human condition.

  • One part of the science of living is to learn just what our own responsibility is, and to let other people's alone.

  • A person who exists only for the sake of his loved one is not an independent entity, but a spiritual parasite. The love of a parasite is worth nothing.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1948, in Michael Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • ... it was Sarah's fate that an excess of virtue should have wrought all the evil of a positive vice. From the days of her infancy, when she had displayed in the cradle a power of self-denial at which her pastor had marveled, she had continued to sacrifice her inclinations in a manner which had rendered unendurable the lives around her. Her parents had succumbed to it; her husband had died of it; her children had resigned themselves to it or rebelled against it according to the quality of their moral fiber. All her life she had labored to make people happy, and the result of this exalted determination was a cowed and resentful family.

  • ... you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excellent in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it — in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. ... And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page ... Had I not killed her she would have killed me.

  • Is there not a terrible hollowness, mockery, want, craving, in that existence which is given away to others, for want of something of your own to bestow it on?

  • No one should be forced to carry the unfulfilled self of another.

  • Is devotion to others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed? I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1945, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 4 ()
  • Mature people relate to each other without the need to merge.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1946, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 4 ()
  • Sacrificers ... are not the ones to pity. The ones to pity are those that they sacrifice. Oh, the sacrificers, they get it both ways. A person knows themselves that they're able to do without.

  • How I regret now that my perpetual emotional dependence on the man I love has killed all my other talents — my energy too: and I had such a lot of that once.

    • Sophia Tolstoy,
    • 1890, in O.A. Golinenko et al., eds., The Diaries of Sophia Tolstoy ()
  • I never had time to do anything for myself. I've always had to subordinate my energy and time to the demands of my husband and children at any given moment. And now old age has crept up on me and I have used up all my mental and physical strength on my family ...

    • Sophia Tolstoy,
    • 1897, in O.A. Golinenko et al., eds., The Diaries of Sophia Tolstoy ()
  • Living by proxy is always a precarious expedient.

  • Pleasure for others is the only pleasure possible to me. I assure you I'm quite selfish! — I'm greedy for the happiness of those I love — and if they can't or won't be happy I'm perfectly miserable.

  • The capacity to sacrifice, like any skill, always needs some fine tuning. It is one thing to sacrifice briefly one's sleep to comfort a child with a bad dream; it is quite another for a mother to sacrifice her whole career for a child. It is one thing for a father to sacrifice his desire to go fishing today because he needs to go to work to feed the family; it is quite another to work for forty years at a job he hates. ... often such massive sacrifice, if not a result of cowardice, comes from an inability to discriminate beween giving that is necessary and life-giving and giving that brings death to the Martyr and hence to those around him or her.

  • It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.

  • ... she had become a kind of emotional tapeworm hanging cosily in the mid-gut of other people's affairs and digesting any entertainment to be derived therefrom.

  • [On codependency:] This term is often used to make women feel responsible for the behaviors of the people they love. It's a way of blaming the victim.

    • Patricia Roehling,
    • in Carol Gentry, "Does 'Codependency' Exist?" St. Petersburg Times ()
  • ... in all codependent relationships, the rescuer needs the victim as much as the victim needs the rescuer.

  • ... she had lived not merely her own life but, without restraint, as many other lives as possible, and those of her family, of course, had most tempted her.

  • Think not because the chrysalis struggles that it is in need of you. Oh! I pray you, stay your eager hands, lest you despoil its silver wings.

  • There are no words more obscene than 'I can't live without you.'

  • Making those we love happy sounds innocent as a dove, but it can be as destructive as a lion.

  • ... her back ached with the burdens other people were carrying.

  • Doing too much for others (often at their own expense), many persons are more 'human doings' than human beings.

  • ... Calvin had got the habit of takin' care of somebody, and it growed on him like drink.

  • There is a stage with people we love when we are no longer separate from them, but so close in sympathy that we live through them as directly as through ourselves. ... we push back our hair because theirs is in their eyes.

  • There are only two states of being in the world of codependency — recovery and denial.

  • What's a codependent? The answer's easy. They're some of the most loving, caring people I know.

  • There are almost as many definitions of codependency as there are experiences that represent it. ... my definition of a codependent: A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.

  • Being codependent means that when you die, someone else's life passes before your eyes.

  • She lives in the lives of others as though she hadn't one of her own.

  • ... when death approaches the co-dependent sees someone else's life flash before her eyes.

  • The martyr sacrifices herself (himself in a few instances) entirely in vain. Or rather not in vain; for she (or he) make the selfish more selfish, the lazy more lazy, the narrow narrower.

    • Florence Nightingale,
    • in Martha Vicinus and Bea Nergaard, eds., Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters ()
  • You can't save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don't appreciate your interfering with the drama they've created.